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Capital Observations 12/1/08

The Washington Capitals started last week off with the last of their five-game road swing in a 3-4 loss to Minnesota. They brought in some much needed help on Wednesday and kept their record of no regulation losses at home in tact by winning the next two at Verizon. They then ended their week with a shutout loss in Columbus.

 

@ Minnesota, Monday 11/24 – The Caps loss to Minnesota last Monday was not nearly as close as the score would imply. The Caps looked dog tired and beat up for most of the game before finally turning it back on for the last six minutes of the game, while Minnesota was already enjoying a 4-0 lead.

 

Matt Bradley started the Caps’ comeback with 5:17 seconds left in the game when he scored off the backhand on a feed by Eric Fehr. Alex Ovechkin added to his point scoring streak when he fired his trademark slap shot from the point, but the goal everyone was waiting for happened 2:09 later when Caps’ center Nicklas Backstrom beat Wild goalie Nicklas Backstrom on the power play to bring the Caps to within a goal of overtime with 1:53 left to play.

 

Unfortunately the Caps would come up just a little short.

 

Clutter-what?! – The Wild’s first two goals of the night were scored by Cal Clutterbuck. All I could think of whenever they said his name on TV (which was often because everyone seemed to enjoy saying it) was that old SNL sketch for celebrity jeopardy when Sean Connery shouted “Buck-Futter!” for no particular reason.

 

The Perfect-Timing Award goes to… – James Sheppard of Minnesota. While his family was being interviewed from the stands, and talking about how many thousands of miles they had driven to see their son’s first NHL game, James Sheppard opened up on a two-on-one and scored his first NHL goal.

 

Boudreau after 82 games – Monday night’s game marked Boudreau’s 82nd game as the team’s bench boss. His 82 game record? 48-24-10.

 

The Caps returned home Tuesday and were given the day off from practice, but Wednesday morning brought in the fresh troops in Chris Bourque, Karl Alzner, Sami Lepisto, and Graham Mink.

 

Vs. Atlanta, Wednesday 11/26 – The Caps new legs may not have made a lot of noise on the scoreboard (with Sami Lepisto registering the only point on the assist) but their impact was clearly apparent. After allowing 30-plus shots per game in each of their last five games Jose Theodore faced a meager 18 shots. Meanwhile Ondrej Pavelec was peppered with 33 shots at the other end of the ice. Alex Ovechkin got his career 6th hat trick less than a minute into the second period as the Caps looked to be totally in control of Atlanta the entire game winning 5-3.

 

Most impressive goal of the night – had to be Eric Fehr on the three-on-one breakaway. Fehr passed the puck to Fleischmann, who passed to Nylander, who passed it right back to Fehr who put the puck in the net.

 

An old friend for dinner – This marked the third straight year the Caps had faced Atlanta on the day before Thanksgiving. The Thrashers had won the previous two Thanksgiving-eve match-ups by scores of 4-2 and 5-1 respectively.

 

Some new friends for dinner – Three Washington Capitals players – Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Brooks Laich – spent Thanksgiving Day with more than 400 underprivileged children and their families as part of the Miracle on Seventh Street at District ChopHouse & Brewery in Washington, D.C.. The Caps players joined volunteers from organizations throughout the city to help out at this event. The Capitals have participated in Miracle on Seventh Street all six years that it has taken place. Backstrom, Green and Laich signed autographs, served food and spent time with the families.

 

Vs. Montreal, Friday 11/28 – The Caps came back Friday night and beat the Montreal Canadiens with their first shutout victory since Cristobal Huet blanked the Florida Panthers in South Florida on March 29, 2008. It was Washington’s first shutout at home in more than a year, since Olie Kolzig blanked the Carolina Hurricanes in Washington’s 2007-08 home opener on Oct. 6, 2007.

 

The Caps scored midway through the first period when Tomas Fleischmann scored his ninth goal of the year. Fleischmann should have been given a goal and an assist on this play. Fleischmann, who had positioned himself on the right of the net, intercepted a pass from behind the net. He passed the puck to a waiting Michael Nylander who was on the left side of the net, which drew Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak off the post. Nylander passed the puck immediately back to Fleischmann who popped it in the net.

 

The Caps would cling to their one goal lead throughout the second period until Alex Ovechkin and David Steckel scored the Caps second and third goals in the third.

 

For Ovechkin, it would be his 13th goal in 10 games. For Theodore it would be his first win against his former team, and his first shutout as a Washington Capital. Theodore earned his shutout facing 28 total shots.

 

Fastest to 50 – Friday night’s victory over Montreal gave Coach Boudreau his 50th career victory as the Capitals’ bench boss. His 50 wins in 84 games erases a team mark that has stood since Jim Schoenfeld reached 50 in 98 games.

 

Smitty reaches a milestone – Head trainer for the Capitals, Greg Smith marked his 1,000th career game Friday night.

 

@ Columbus, Saturday 11/29 – The Caps finished their week with a disappointing shutout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, thus ending Ovechkin’s point scoring streak at 10 games.

 

The Caps went 2-2-0 this past week, and hold the lead in the Southeast by three points.

 

November’s first star – Alex Ovechkin, having broken out of his October scoring slump scored 13 goals and 25-points to be named the NHL’s first star of November.

 

The Caps went 8-5-2 in November after going 5-3-1 in October. The Capitals have still not lost in regulation at home (9-0-1) and are setting new attendance records. Friday night’s sellout crowd of 18,277 was their second straight sellout at home, and their fourth of the season. The Capitals average attendance after 10 games is now 17,862. That’s a 29.1% increase over the attendance from last year (13,389) and a franchise record for average attendance after 10 games.

 

The Caps have four games coming up this week. The first is this tomorrow at Verizon, and is blacked out from TV coverage.

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